Tyson Foods, the largest producer of chicken in the United States, has announced that it will stop using human antibiotics in its flocks of chickens by the fall of 2017. This move comes in the wake of several companies phasing out the use of chicken meat raised with antibiotics use to treat diseases in humans, including McDonald's, one of the leading purchasers of Tyson chicken.
The company also said that it will work to cut down on the amount of antibiotics used in its pork and beef operations. Tyson owns its chickens from the hatchery through to the processing plants, and knows how much antibiotics are used in its feeds. However, the company buys beef and pork from independent farmers and does not control what the animals are fed.
Antibiotics are added to animal feed in healthy flocks and herds to help them grow faster. However, this use can cause bacteria to develop strains that are resistant to those antibiotics. Antibiotics that are important to human medicine then become less useful or even useless when resistant strains spread.
The three largest chicken producers in the United States have now all made commitments to eliminate the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter. Pilgrim's Pride, the second largest producer, announced that it would cut all antibiotics in a quarter of its chicken production by 2019. Purdue Farms Inc. says that 95% of its chickens are raised without antibiotics used in humans and more than half are raised with no antibiotics at all.
McDonald's announced last month that it was going to phase out the use of chicken produced with antibiotics within 2 years. Although known as a burger chain, McDonald's actually sells more chicken than beef.
Costco, the large warehouse chain, has also announced plans to reduce the amount of antibiotics in its chicken.